In the News | Awards & Recognition

SPSCC a Finalist for the 2023 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence

By The Aspen Institute

April 20, 2023

Today the Aspen Institute announced the winners and finalists of the 2023 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s premier award for two-year colleges. South Puget Sound Community College was recognized as a finalist, applauded for their outstanding work helping students succeed in college and beyond.

South Puget Sound Community College was applauded for streamlining the path to earning a degree to reduce confusion and wasted time for students.  It was also recognized for its focus on improving access to college, including impressive efforts to reach out to Native American middle and high schoolers and expanding offerings in rural areas. The results have been steadily improving graduation rates, which are today five percentage points above the national average.

“South Puget Sound has done great work ensuring that everyone has access to a college degree,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “But college leaders know that access without completion is a hollow promise, so they have worked hard to clarify student program pathways and ensure that all students create clear plans to graduate.”

Since its creation in 2010, the Aspen Prize has been the nation’s signature recognition of community colleges that are achieving high, improving, and equitable outcomes for students both while in college and after graduating. The winners and finalists represent the amazing potential of America’s thousand-plus community colleges to lift up individuals and communities by serving as engines of prosperity and social mobility.

The 2023 Prize winners were selected by an independent nine-member Prize Jury of leaders in politics, journalism, and education: 

  • Jaime Aquino, Superintendent, San Antonio Independent School District
  • Thomas Brock, Director, Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Sarita Brown, President, Excelencia in Education
  • Andrew Kelly, Senior Vice President for Strategy and Policy, University of North Carolina System
  • David Leonhardt, Senior Writer, The New York Times
  • Ericka Miller, President and CEO, Isaacson, Miller
  • Joelle Phillips, President, AT&T Tennessee
  • Jane Swift, President and Executive Director, LearnLaunch; former governor of Massachusetts

Awarded every two years, the Aspen Prize honors colleges that show outstanding performance in six critical areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success, equitable access, and equitable outcomes for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. The selection process for this year’s prize began in October 2021, when an expert data panel guided the Aspen Institute in crafting a formula to assess student outcomes at nearly 1,000 community colleges in key areas such as retention, completion, and equity. Based on that formula, 150 top community colleges were invited to apply. A selection committee of 16 higher education experts reviewed 109 submitted applications and chose ten finalists in May 2022, following the announcement of 25 semifinalists in April 2022. For more information about the Prize process, please visit:

The ten finalists (including the two winners of the $1 million prize) are: 

  • Amarillo College, TX (winner)
  • Broward College, FL
  • Imperial Valley College, CA (winner)
  • Hostos Community College (CUNY), NY
  • Kingsborough Community College (CUNY), NY
  • Moorpark College. CA
  • Northwest Iowa Community College, IA
  • San Jacinto College, TX
  • South Puget Sound Community College, WA
  • Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, WI

The Aspen Prize is generously funded by Ascendium, the Joyce Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, and the Kresge Foundation.

Previous Aspen Prize winners: 

  • 2021: San Antonio College (TX)
  • 2019: Indian River State College (FL) and Miami Dade College (FL)
  • 2017: Lake Area Technical Institute (SD)
  • 2015: Santa Fe College (FL)
  • 2013: Santa Barbara City College (CA) and Walla Walla Community College (WA)
  • 2011: Valencia College (FL)

Note: Colleges that have won the Aspen prize are not eligible to apply in subsequent years

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies, and leadership that significantly improve student outcomes, especially for the growing population of low-income students and students of color on American campuses. For more information, visit and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter. The Aspen Prize hashtag is #AspenPrize.

The Aspen Institute is a community-serving organization with global reach whose vision is a free, just, and equitable society. For 70 years, the Institute has driven change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the world’s greatest challenges. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Institute has offices in Aspen, Colorado, and New York City, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

Photo of Building 22 with a badge that reads "Aspen Prize Finalist 2023"